Photos: Jeff Sessions by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0. Rod Rosenstein by US Marshall Service

We keep saying that it's hard to find anything shocking about the Trump administration anymore, and yet we still keep finding shocking things. The well of evil in this administration is so deep, and went so far beyond just Donald Trump, who found an astonishing number of willing collaborators. As a reminder, see yesterday's report by the New York Times on a draft report by the Justice Department's inspector general, which found that top DOJ officials pushed hard for the 2018 policy that took children away from their parents at the border in an attempt to stop Central Americans from seeking asylum in the US.

The piece makes two things abundantly clear: Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, along with the rest of DOJ leadership, went to great lengths to push the "zero tolerance" policy that prioritized prosecuting misdemeanor counts of crossing the border illegally. And despite all the denials they made later, the fuckers not only knew that prosecuting adult border crossers would lead to their children being taken away from them, they pursued the policy because it meant children would be taken.

That wasn't a regrettable or incidental effect of the policy, it was the primary motivation. DOJ officials believed that if immigrants knew the US was seizing children, they'd stay away, so they created a policy that would make that happen. The cruelty was the point, and pretty much the only point.

May all of them burn in the Hell I don't believe in. And if his quashing of any investigation into Donald Trump's finances hadn't already done it, this article should end forever any suggestion that Rod Rosenstein was any kind of hero in the DOJ.


The Times story is based on a draft of a report by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who somehow appears not to have been fired by Trump, as well as on "interviews with three government officials who read it in recent months and described its conclusions and many of the details in it." They cautioned that the final report could change from the draft. Horowitz's report is based on interviews with more than 45 DOJ officials as well as internal documents and emails; the Times notes that Sessions declined to be interviewed by the IG, but Rosenstein did participate in the investigation.

And Jesus god, what a horror story it is. Sessions and crew pushed child separation aggressively as a "deterrent" to immigration, with virtually no consideration of how the kids would be affected. After all, why would anyone consider that? Illegals are illegal, not real people, and the goal was to scare the parents away — the children were little more than a lever to be used against them.

The mechanism for taking kids from their parents was to prosecute adults who illegally crossed the border with their kids; even though it's a misdemeanor, it still meant that the parents would be jailed for as long as that took, requiring the kids be transferred to the "care" of the Department of Health and Human Services. And the DOJ wasn't especially interested in whether that was done with adequate record-keeping to ensure the families could be reunited.

The Times notes that the policy met with immediate resistance from US attorneys in border states, who were shocked by what they were asked to do and told the DOJ they were "deeply concerned" about the welfare of the kids. Sessions explained in a May 2018 conference call with prosecutors that the goal was simple:

"We need to take away children," Mr. Sessions told the prosecutors, according to participants' notes. One added in shorthand: "If care about kids, don't bring them in. Won't give amnesty to people with kids."

Rod J. Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general, went even further in a second call about a week later, telling the five prosecutors that it did not matter how young the children were. He said that government lawyers should not have refused to prosecute two cases simply because the children were barely more than infants. [emphasis added — Dok]

Remember all the explanations about how there was no child separation policy, just a policy of prosecuting lawbreakers, which happened to mean that children had to be put in HHS care temporarily? It was a transparent lie, and the IG report simply provides additional receipts.

The draft report explains, in measured, formal language, that the goal of hurting as many immigrants as possible overrode niceties like any plan at all for eventually reuniting families:

The department's single-minded focus on increasing prosecutions came at the expense of careful and effective implementation of the policy, especially with regard to prosecution of family-unit adults and the resulting child separations.

In addition to documenting that the architects of family separation knew damn well what they were doing, the report documented other previously unknown ugliness. When an experimental 2017 pilot program of family separation was rolled out in Texas, some federal prosecutors were disgusted:

"We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants," one government prosecutor wrote to his superiors. "I did not believe this until I looked at the duty log."

In addition, the report documents that the emphasis on going after thousands of misdemeanor cases of unauthorized entry actually diverted DOJ and Homeland Security resources away from dealing with more serious crimes. A prosecutor in Texas warned DOJ bosses that because Border Patrol agents were too busy with low-level cases, "sex offenders were released" in 2018. The US Marshall Service was similarly over-extended, and unable to serve warrants in other cases.

But the most damning is the evidence that Justice Department officials simply didn't give two shits about what happened to the children, because once the parents were taken off for booking, the children went away, first to the pens at Border Patrol stations, then to the warehouses of HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement.

We've said previously that the profusion of different agencies involved in child separation felt like an attempt to confuse everyone about who bore responsibility for the horror, but that actually seemed to be the official attitude at DOJ:

Senior Justice Department officials viewed the welfare of the children as the responsibility of other agencies and their duty as tracking the parents. "I just don't see that as a D.O.J. equity," Mr. Rosenstein told the inspector general.

Rosenstein comes off as a particularly nasty piece of work here; he insisted that he never ordered nothing illegal, no sir.

"If any United States attorney ever charged a defendant they did not personally believe warranted prosecution, they violated their oath of office," Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement. "I never ordered anyone to prosecute a case."

Other than telling US attorneys they were out of line for declining to prosecute women simply because they crossed the border with babies, that is.

A DOJ spokesperson, Alexa Vance, offered similar ass-covering, explaining the department was merely prosecuting cases referred to it by Homeland Security, which scooped up the migrants and did the actual dirty work of taking kids from their parents. Vance issued a hell of a non-denial denial:

"The draft report relied on for this article contains numerous factual errors and inaccuracies," she said. "While D.O.J. is responsible for the prosecutions of defendants, it had no role in tracking or providing custodial care to the children of defendants. Finally, both the timing and misleading content of this leak raise troubling questions about the motivations of those responsible for it."

Ah, well, the document was leaked in advance of the election, so it would be very unfair of anyone to talk about it now.

As with any atrocity, there were any number of functionaries involved. Weirdly, we learn that the policy was opposed at almost every step by then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was the only person at a May 3, 2018, meeting who didn't raise her hand in agreement with Sessions's call for the "zero tolerance" policy to go forward. That resistance didn't last, though: She folded the next day and sent a memo calling for all adults to be prosecuted (and their kids taken). After that, she became the public face of the policy, claiming — even under oath — that there was no such thing as a "family separation policy," just a policy that prosecuted people and led to family separations.

But the rot went straight to the top. All of them knew this was a policy to take kids from their parents, and even after it supposedly "ended," Trump kept insisting it should be done again, because he's a sociopath and a racist. But now we're letting families rot in Mexico and all's well.

Read the entire infuriating thing, vote these monsters out, and let Joe Biden know his Justice Department needs to be cleaned out, and to pursue the Trump administration's crimes against children and humanity.

[NYT / Jeff Sessions photo [cropped] by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0]]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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